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Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

Volume 697: debated on Thursday 24 June 2021

What recent assessment he has made of the strength of industrial relations at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. (901755)

What steps he has taken to help protect workers at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency Swansea site from covid-19. (901765)

Two weeks ago, representatives from the Public and Commercial Services Union and senior management, including the permanent secretary of the Department for Transport, had reached a deal to bring an end to the ongoing industrial dispute over covid safety, but in a development unprecedented in 20 years of civil service negotiations, the Department subsequently reneged on a deal, much of which it had written, with no word of explanation. Is PCS right in believing that the deal was scuppered at the last minute after direct intervention from the Secretary of State? Will he apologise to those members of the public who now face further backlogs as a result of this unnecessary, ideological refusal to find the resolution to this dispute?

With the greatest respect to the hon. Lady, the only thing that is unnecessary is for the PCS union to be continuing a strike that is purported to be about safety when, in fact, £4.2 million has been invested at the DVLA to make it covid- safe. An additional building has been rented. Air conditioning has been changed so that the air comes directly in from outside. Perspex screens have been put in place. Zones and bubbles have been created, and there is a very substantive clean regime. If this dispute is indeed about making sure that the building is covid-secure, then that has been achieved. What we need to know is why the demands then switched to demands about pay and demands about holiday, which have nothing to do with being covid-secure.

I wonder whether the Secretary of State would therefore be willing to accompany me and other colleagues who have constituents working at the DVLA to the site so that he can show us just how safe it is, because our constituents are telling us a completely different story.

It is probably important that we allow those who are experts in these things to follow through. Public Health Wales has signed this off. Swansea Council’s environmental health team has signed this off. The Health and Safety Executive has signed this off. I think we should be listening to all those health experts as they decide what should happen in a site like this and are looking at the data and facts. We can then make the decision from there. I do not think there is any further excuse for preventing vulnerable people from being able to pick up the documentation that they require from the DVLA, which is the only thing this ongoing strike is now achieving.